Canvas data and academic integrity

Another entry in my I-guess-other-people-might-have-to-write-something-like-this series of posts . . .

The following is my initial attempt to contextualize Canvas data should it be requested in academic integrity investigations. This is my own opinion and doesn’t represent any place I might or might not work.<footnote>See how vague that sentence is? That means it’s basically a legal statement. l am so legal.</footnote> If you’re interested in this, you might also want to check out Yale’s more comprehensive statement on the topic and DLINQ’s previous statement against academic surveillance more broadly.

Canvas Data

Canvas was not built to detect academic dishonesty. Academic integrity investigations should not be driven, and cannot be reliably proven, by Canvas data. Canvas explicitly states in its documentation that data from access logs or quiz logs should not be used to detect academic dishonesty.

In 2021, Dartmouth Medical School used Canvas access log data to accuse 17 students of cheating. The accusations were retracted, but not before negatively impacting numerous students.<footnote>I need to make this stronger, but without making it seem hyperbolic.</footnote> The issue received international media coverage and led to a joint investigation by the New York Times and The Electronic Frontier Foundation. Their reporting found the following regarding Canvas access logs.

“.. course material access logs also do not accurately reflect student activity—they could either indicate that a student was actively engaging with the course material, or that a student’s device was passively logged in to the website, but the student was not actively accessing the course material.”

EFF article

Canvas documentation makes the following statements recommending against using the data it provides for academic integrity issues.

“Disclaimer: The data in the requests table is a ‘best effort’ attempt, and is not guaranteed to be complete or wholly accurate. This data is meant to be used for rollups and analysis in the aggregate, _not_ in isolation for auditing or other high-stakes analysis involving examining single users or small samples.”

Canvas API documentation

“Quiz logs should not be used to validate academic integrity or identify occurrences of cheating.”

Canvas Instructor Guide

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